The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners

By Marguerite Shuster | Go to book overview

9
Problems of Freedom

Moral Inability

The charge most frequently brought against the traditional doctrine of original sin is that it contains a fundamental antinomy: it implies that humankind is unable to keep the counsel of perfection, and hence it undercuts all moral responsibility. If sin is unavoidable and inevitable in all of our actions and in the use of all of our faculties, then how shall we be motivated even to aspire to do better than we do?1 Liberal theology in particular has rejected this doctrine as a counsel of despair, offensive to a proper view of the nobility, worth, and dignity of those invested with the divine image and working against our duty to emulate the example of Jesus, who has shown us the full potential of our humanity But if the history of the past century has taught us anything, surely it is that Liberalism has consistently underestimated the human potential for evil.

The Augustinian tradition, as we have said, has repudiated the thought that sin is a defect of nature, an ontological defect, by saying that Adam and Eve were created "able not to sin" (posse non peccare). However, it has also insisted that we are indeed now dead in trespasses

1. Turning this argument more or less on its head, William Hordern argues that it is
not surprising that sin should take advantage of the view that humankind cannot save
themselves in order to justify itself: that is precisely the nature of sin (The Case for a New
Reformation Theology
"Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959", p. 141).

-182-

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The Fall and Sin: What We Have Become as Sinners
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Part I - The Fall of Humankind 1
  • I - Introduction: Primal History Viewed as Covenantal 3
  • 2: The Root of the Fall 37
  • 3: The Nature of the Fall 49
  • 4: Consequences of the Fall 62
  • 5: The Divine Purpose and Moral Evil 84
  • Part II - The Doctrine of Sin 97
  • 6: The Nature of Sin 99
  • 7: Sin and Sins 135
  • 8: Original Sin 159
  • 9: Problems of Freedom 182
  • 10: Civil Righteousness 212
  • Appendix I - Physical Death as Existential Reality 230
  • Appendix 2 - Biblical Vocabulary Relating to Sin 263
  • Subject Index 266
  • Name Index 271
  • Scripture Reference Index 275
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